Managing Unexpected Curveballs in Life

Life is full of curveballs. However, unexpected challenges can sometimes create new opportunities that are actually good things in the end. You may have read or heard stories about people who get lost or miss a scheduled train or flight only to wind up having a memorably great experience meeting someone who changes your life forever in a good way.

Losing your job during this global pandemic may be viewed by many as a pretty big, negative curveball. So is taking a job with a terrible boss or dealing with corporate changes that require you to move to a new city might not be considered a good change.  But have you considered that these types of curveballs may actually steer you in a wonderful new direction? You may end up meeting a whole new group of friends or get laid off and during your job search you find your dream job. The truth is you never know what will happen when curveballs are thrown your way. So why think that the worst is going to happen? Instead try not to think too far ahead and assume the new situation is going to be a bad one. This only creates worry, sleepless nights, and negative thoughts. When life tosses a curveball your way, try to view the change with hopefulness.

You’ve probably heard the adage – Hope for the best, but plan for the worst. Noted psychotherapist Dr. Jennice Vilhauer says that “…if a curveball is thrown your way and you want a good outcome, you have to instead of planning for the worst, plan for good things to happen.” Now that’s smart advice. Thinking this way probably will lead to actions taken to create better outcomes. In other words, it’s all in your mindset.

Let’s face it, in light of the past year with the global COVID-19 pandemic, millions of jobs lost, the Black Lives Matter protests, the #MeToo Movement, and our polarized national politics—it’s not a matter of IF you’ll be facing a major life challenge or curveball, it’s a matter of when. What really matters most is how you respond to it.

When unexpected things happen, it doesn’t mean you can’t step back, take inventory of your options, and make a plan to come up with ideas to develop the best possible solutions to make the best of your situation. Many of us (if not all of us) have been through more than one major curveball experience. If you’re like me, you’ve probably been through a few big challenges as well as many smaller bumps in the road. As Dr. Vilhaur says, “no one likes them, but most of us survive them.”

When you find yourself in a difficult situation, don’t allow yourself to think it’s not going to work out. Instead, think about the challenge(s) that you’ve already encountered and then ask yourself, “How did I make it through that?”

Remember that your biggest strengths are crucial to getting through the current curveball life has tossed your way and those same strengths will give you the confidence you need to make it through to the other side where your inner happiness and contentment resides. Whenever focusing on your strongest traits, skills and abilities isn’t happening for you, just ask a friend, mentor, or family member who knows you well enough to give you some advice. This really works great for me.

The key to surviving any curveballs thrown your way is to shift your attention from the challenge and focus instead on finding the solution. When you ask yourself, “What can be done to improve my situation?” you’re taking the first step to envisioning and developing a gameplan to change the potentially negative situation into a positive. If you’re anything like me, it feels so much better when you have a plan for how to turn a curveball into a homerun—or in non-baseball lingo–something that may turn out better than you imagined. When you have a plan, your perspective of the curveball will begin to change and most importantly, you’ll regain your sense of control and start to feel better.

Writer’s Note: Information in this article is credited to Dr. Jennice Vilhauer, author of Think Forward to Thrive: How to Use the Mind’s Power of Anticipation to Transcend Your Past and Transform Your Life.

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